We investigated whether different patterns of resolving relationship conflict distinguished heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples. One hundred eight couples (36 gay male, 36 lesbian, and 36 heterosexual) were drawn from the community, matched for age and length of relationship, and compared on the scales of the Styles of Conflict Inventory (SCI). To distinguish those conflict patterns that were orientation or gender specific, styles of conflict resolution between the men in same- and other-sex relationships and between the women in same- and other-sex couples were also compared. Results indicated that most couples across type of relationship reported a high degree of relationship satisfaction and moderately low amounts of conflict. Overall, heterosexual, gay, and lesbian couples were fundamentally similar, and common stereotypes of each couple were not verified. Women in lesbian relationships reported significantly greater relationship satisfaction, greater hope for conflict resolution, and several more constructive conflict-resolution styles than either gay male couples or heterosexual couples. Differences appeared to be correlated with social gender role factors and common differences in relationship lifestyle features, such as the presence of children in the home.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
An initial report was presented at the Annual Meeting of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, November 5, 1993, Chicago. We are grateful to Milton H. Seifert, Jr., M.D., for supporting efforts to obtain volunteers for our investigation, research assistants Jim Hansen and Deborah Finstad for their computer and statistical assistance, and several anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions. A portion of this study was funded from a grant from the Research Department, Department of Family Practice and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School. Correspondence may be addressed to Michael E. Metz, Ph.D., Program In Human Sexuality, Department of Family Practice and Community Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Suite 180-3, 1300 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55454. Voice: (612) 625-1500. Fax: (612) 626-8311. E-mail: Michael.E.Metzfirstname.lastname@example.org.